How can I be a fashion icon

Rebel fashion icon Vivienne Westwood turns 80

Last year she caused a stir with the protest for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. In a bright yellow outfit, she was sitting in an oversized bird cage in front of a courthouse in London. "I'm Julian Assange!" she called into her megaphone in front of journalists and demonstrators and: "The world is corrupt!". She seemed to enjoy the role.

For a long time, the British woman with the pale skin has been committed to human rights, peace, animal welfare and against climate change. The big show is always a part of Westwood's staging because it guarantees its attention. In 2015, she was driven in a white tank to the private home of the British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, to protest against the extraction of gas by fracking.

The political statement was and is also an integral part of her fashion - occasionally to the chagrin of her husband and co-designer Andreas Kronthaler, as becomes clear in the Westwood documentary by director Lorna Tucker. "She likes it when the clothes have a message," says Kronthaler, "what I find good or not good. I'm not sure." Westwood has been married to the 25 years younger Austrian, her former fashion student, for almost 30 years.

Fashion alone was never enough for Westwood. She didn't even have a career in the industry in mind. "I didn't want to be a fashion designer," she clarified in 2009 in "Time" magazine. "I'd rather read and do intellectual things." The daughter of a shoemaker and a cotton spinner had shown a knack for fashion as a child. Westwood, who was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in 1941 in the parish of Tintwistle near Manchester, is said to have even made fashion changes to her school uniform.

In her teens, she moved to near London with her parents and siblings. After just one semester, she dropped out of art studies to train as a teacher - with art as her main subject. Her plan: "I'll try to be an artist. And if I can't be an artist, I'll be a teacher."

She first met Derek Westwood, with whom she had son Ben. The marriage lasted only two years. From the subsequent relationship with the young art student Malcolm McLaren, the later manager of the Sex Pistols, their second son Joseph emerged. McLaren also coincidentally launched Westwood's fashion career.

With him she opened the store "Let it Rock" on London's King's Road in 1970, selling records and fashion designed by her. The boutique changed name and style several times, at times offered daring S&M fashion as "SEX", and has been called "World's End" since 1979 until today. In the 70s it was a meeting place for the punk scene and is also considered the founding place of the Sex Pistols. Westwood created the first outfits for Johnny Rotten and Co. with safety pins, mesh shirts and riveted bracelets - and thus created the iconic punk look.

"I didn't consider myself a fashion designer at all, but I found that I was very talented," Westwood says in Tucker's documentary. "I wanted people to know that the stuff they see on the catwalk in Paris comes from me. And I figured I had to get into this business world and really sell the clothes, present them to the journalists and one Be a fashion designer. I knew I could do it. "

After Westwood was initially ridiculed at home and even laughed at on television in the late 80s, she was named British Designer of the Year in 1990 and 1991. In 2006 she was ennobled by Queen Elizabeth II. While Dame Vivienne is still punk at heart, her fashion has long been part of the establishment. Princess Eugenie married in a Westwood dress in 2011. Even the former Prime Minister Theresa May wore a trouser suit from her.

Westwood, which was almost broke in the 80s, struggles with the business side to this day. "Quality instead of quantity" is their mantra. The expansion of her company, which describes itself as "one of the last independent fashion houses", jeopardizes that. "I run the risk of not being able to control everything properly," she complains. "And I definitely don't have to sell anything that I don't like." The not exactly squeamish Westwood sometimes drives her employees to despair, as the film makes clear.

Dame Vivienne is also headstrong and uncomfortable when it comes to climate protection. Their website is called "Climate Revolution", a mixture of political blog and diary in punk design. "I am the only person with a plan to save the world from climate change," she announced in a recent video message. Once a week she publishes such speeches on her YouTube channel, which usually seem a bit quirky. She does not owe further details of this plan. But Vivienne Westwood is serious.

By the way, she wasn't satisfied with "Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist" in the end and explicitly distanced herself from it. Director Tucker, who had accompanied her for three years, showed too much archive material and reported too little about her political commitment, Westwood complained and ended the friendship. Tucker defended her film but remained diplomatic. "She inspired me like no one else I've worked with," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. "So I will always love her."